Only Conservatives can form strong opposition: Sunak

Kate Holton |

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak remains upbeat as he heads to an election that Labour is tipped to win
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak remains upbeat as he heads to an election that Labour is tipped to win

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says only his Conservatives can counter a Labour-led government and a vote for Nigel Farage’s right-wing Reform UK would hamper any chance of his party forming a strong opposition.

Appearing to all but concede defeat before Thursday’s election, Sunak will appeal to those voters on the political right who are considering voting for Farage’s party in protest at his Conservative government.

The Conservatives look set to be kicked out of office after 14 turbulent years, marked by Britain’s vote to leave the EU in 2016 and the cost-of-living crisis that followed the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Keir Starmer on the campaign trail
Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is expected to be voted into government when Britain goes to the polls. (AP PHOTO)

Opinion polls have consistently given Keir Starmer’s centre-left Labour Party an around 20-point lead, with support for Reform potentially splitting the centre right-vote and the centrist Liberal Democrats further draining Conservative support.

Sunak will say at a rally that Reform “just won’t win enough seats to oppose Labour”, saying the party had previously said it would be good to get a handful of members of parliament elected.

“Just imagine that: Hundreds and hundreds of Labour MPs opposed by just ‘one, two, three, four, five elected MPs,” Sunak will say on Monday, according to extracts of his speech.

“A Labour government would be bad for our country, and an unchecked Labour government would be a disaster from which it would take decades to recover.”

Farage is one of Britain’s most recognisable and divisive politicians. He has spent decades railing against the establishment and the EU, and has in recent years campaigned for Donald Trump in the US.

He entered the election in early June, vowing to supplant the Conservatives as the main party of the right.

A file photo of Nigel Farage
Conservatives fear Reform UK, led by Nigel Farage, will split the centre-right vote and weaken them. (AP PHOTO)

Polls appear to show Reform’s support peaked in the second half of June, shortly before Farage said the West provoked Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some of his candidates have been dropped for racist or inappropriate remarks.

While Britain’s electoral system means Reform may win millions of votes, the party is unlikely to win more than a handful of parliamentary seats. But that could be enough to split the right in many areas and hand victory to Labour.

Britain will likely elect a centre-left government as much of Europe swings right, including in France where Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally won the first round of a parliamentary election on Sunday.

With polls showing many voters are undecided, Sunak will make a final appeal for people to limit Labour’s power if it gets into government, saying: “We Conservatives will stand up for you and make sure your voice is heard, your values represented.”

with AP and PA

Reuters